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City of the Century”.
report in the Gazette, a CBRE spokesman made a brave pitch for the site's advantages - good transportation, close to power and fibre eastments, and reasonable price.
Not reasonable enough, apparently. A year later, the Wrigley factory complex was sold to Lonbard-based Avgeris and Associates - for $5 million. Avergis's corporate focus is in the challenging industrial property field, with its website listing over 20 sites in nine different states. Over half of those properties are in the Chicago area, with over half of the nearly 3 million square feet of space listed on the website as “available”. Over one half of that vacant space comes from a single facility at 4100 West 76th Street. Avergis has only one other retail development listed on its website, at California and 47th. It appears to completely vacant.
Avgeris webpage for the site, the name “Wrigley” is nowhere to be found. Nor are any structures mentioned. The site is identified only as “3535 S. Ashland . . . just over 30 acres,” ready to “build to suit.” Reports are Avgeris is hoping to find financial salvation in that other universal antidote for urban decay: big box retailers and strip malls. No tenants have been announced or even rumored, so why the rush to destroy? Avgeris claims the usual, vague “safety” concerns are driving the demolition, but my bet is that not only the buildings but the Wrigley history and identity are seen as liabilities that need to be scrubbed clean from the site to make it financially viable.
3815 South Ashland. Just a couple blocks south of the Wrigley complex, it's in another world aesthetically. Built in the 1940's, it has none of fine detailing of the older CMD buildings. With the demolition of the Ashland viaduct, the raw, now spalling bones of its revealed reinforced concrete frame, inset with matrices of small rectangular windows, is again on full display, its original spare elegance in full derelict retreat.
I've a system that's fiendishly clever,In an “expose” as part of its Broken Bonds series on the City of Chicago's burgeoning municipal debt, the Chicago Tribune made the Pershing Road complex the poster child of “indiscriminate spending”, a “boondongle” sucking up $41 million in bond money for the past nine years. Pandering to its perceived primary readership of suburbanites in the 1%, the Trib report seemed to suggest that Chicago is already Detroit, inferring that new capital projects such as police and fire stations, libraries, and saving landmarks to sustain neighborhood character, have not only been far too expensive, but probably shouldn't be done at all.
Which I learned from a croupier friend,
And I should go on winning forever
But I do seem to lose in the end.
What's the Use? from Candide, lyrics, John La Touche.
Before it imploded in its last terms, the administration of Richard M. Daley had made supporting Chicago's industrial base a major priority, but the story of how that all played out is an object lesson in how things really work in clout city.
|Galewood Yards, 1940's, photograph: Jack Delano, Library of Congress|
When CMC pushed to be allowed to switch to residential development, the Daley administration pushed back, and a year later CMC bailed, selling their interest for $6.9 million to Calvin Boender. Originally Boender talked about how the site "would make an excellent boutique industrial park,” but by 2004, he, too, was pressing for a switch to residential. After Boender enlisted the help of Alderman Issac Carother's and Congressman Luis Guiterez, the city threw in the towel. It allowed a part of the site to be rezoned to allow 187 residential units and a 14-screen movie theater. $5.3 in TIF money went to a local union so it buy a portion of the remaining acreage from Boender for a job training center. Boender also got over $6 million for selling the land for the cineplex and residences.
At the end of 2012, the Galewood/Armitage TIF had a $23 million balance, but a ongoing paper deficit, as revenues from the TIF were used - not to support industrial development - but to float over $35 million in school construction bonds to fund the $36.5 million Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy.
In May of 2009, Carothers and Boender were indicted by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on fraud and bribery charges. Boender had given Carothers $40,000 in free improvements to his home, plus other perks, in exchange for successfully pushing through the zoning change that allowed Boender, without doing a jot of development, to sell property he had bought at $6.9 million for $11.3 million within just a few short years.
In 2010, Carothers plead guilty. The next year a jury convicted Boender. In a secret 2008 interview with the FBI, Mayor Daley “had trouble recalling any controversy surrounding Galewood Yards.” This elective amnesia seems to have become the Mayor's contemptuous M.O. whenever he's called to testify on the corrupt deals that have now become his administration's legacy.
And so, we're back to the beginning. The demolition of the Ashland Avenue overpass lets us see unobstructed the proud old factory buildings. For the first time in half a century, they've been given room to breathe - will they be denied a chance to live?
siteplan on their website doesn't just include the Wrigley properties, but extends another block south. A February, 2013 report by DNAinfoChicago shows a prospective plan that wipes out every building on Ashland almost to 37th, including the eight-story former Larkin Building - three square blocks erased for a big box strip mall with stores in a dozen isolated islands swimming in a sea of 600 parking places.
Last month, mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration announced a task force bringing together the City of Chicago, local alderman, labor and consultants to come up for new uses for the 50+ now-closed Dominick's stores that failed to find a buyer. Where's the task force for the CMD? In 2012, Emanuel announced a plan to bring high-speed broadband to the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor. The CMD already has the benefit of adjacency to the rail right-of-way that served the Stockyards. Why not use it to help attract high-tech to the CMD with super-speed internet?
The Central Manufacturing District is the ugly duckling of Chicago's lost pride. When you walk among the fine old buildings, when you view the great clock tower from McKinley Park, you can see
what it could become - perhaps not exactly a swan, but more a falcon or a hawk, a workaday bird of no small majesty. Right now, it's just prey for the vultures.
Four Buildings and a Funeral - Wrigley: The Architecture that Remains after a Great Company Dies
Outtakes from the Central Manufacturing District.
Aftermath: Some Say the World Will End in Ice . . .